Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (affiliate link).
This is one of those books that I had every intention of reading when it was released, but was too busy to read at the time. When I had the chance to borrow it, I jumped, and spent most of my train trips for a week (and a sleepless night) reading it. This was a good way to consume the book, I think – full immersion, as much as is possible with my current schedule.
Back at uni, I did a “historical computing” assignment on the S-100 bus, part of the technology of the early 1980s, and a key part my first computer (the one I had access to when I was about five years old). I was a big fan of computer culture even back then, though it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that I had a chance to play with a Macintosh.
Even though I didn’t own any Apple computer until I started earning money for myself, Apple computers were a big part of my computer experience – a UNSW program when I was at primary school gave us a chance to learn Appleworks on the Apple IIe (I remember they had an Apple II GS in a room somewhere – it was much faster than the regular Apple II computer series, which made Frogger completely unplayable).
All this reminiscing is to help explain what I liked about the book – it was a chance to go back to that period of time, and see what was happening in the part of the world where so much computer development was taking place.
The book is certainly not without its flaws – have a listen to the hypercritical podcast episodes 42 and 43 for a very detailed breakdown of why Isaacson was “the wrong guy” for the job of biographer – he lacks technical knowledge, and has not done a great deal of cross-checking ideas. In particular, I was wondering how Jobs justified his division of work/life balance, seeming to spend little time with his family: there wasn’t much of an attempt made to explain this.
If you have a passing interest in Steve Jobs, this is a good book to work through in search of answers. If you’re looking for something more substantial in terms of how Jobs achieved what he did, there’s still a lot of mystery remaining, but this may well be the book that gets closest to answering anything.